If you just got yourself a cat, you might be wondering how you will get the cat to like you. Today I will show you how to bond with a cat so that you in time can be the best of friends with your (new) feline.
Why Bond With Your Cat?
You wouldn’t have a cat, just to have it live by your side. You probably have a cat to have a nice companion by your side that has a mutual understanding of each other. Like you would do with any animal or human, you would try to bond with a cat. Bonding with your cat will be beneficial in that.
Learn Cat Body Language
First step in any relationship is to learn the body language. Cats do not really communicate that well vocally with us and we haven’t gotten as advanced yet in science to make something out of the meowing noise cats produce. Cats do however communicate with their bodies. This is very handy when they meet other animals. In due time you will see that your cat does also communicate with you through body language. It is all just a matter of knowing and seeing this. When you understand your cat better, it will be easier to communicate with your cat.
Cats use their entire body, but the most profound areas on a cats body are:
Cats ears will turn around, as they can turn their ears by 180 degrees. They can do this individually with each ear. Tails of a cat also tell a story about how they are feeling. Cats can also rise their hairs while being angry and tough looking.
Understanding body language is essential for a good start on the entire process of bonding with a cat.
Your Body Language
Just as important, if not more important, is to understand how you behave around your cat. Your body language will also be read by your cat and can tell whether you are a threat or a friend to them.
The most important areas on a big human body are:
- your overall stress level (being relaxed around your cat is best) and feelings
- your eyes
- your mouth
- accessoires, such as glasses
Feelings and Vibes
Being stressful around your cat is not going to help your cat. In fact most relationships suffer from stress-related issues. It is essential for good communication to feel relaxed and at peace. It isn’t just reducing the stress levels, but the overall way we feel about ourselves.
The funny thing in this is that people with allergies for cats or people that are afraid of cats, are often faster targeted by cats then the people who smile and look at the cat.
Your eyes are the most important part of your body after the stress level situation. The eyes are what you can communicate best with to any animal. It is kind of the thing that animals by instinct are looking for when confronting each other. Just keep notice of that, you will see that most animals make decisions based on a long stare at you.
Also part of your face is your mouth and it is also a main part of what an animal looks at when trying to determine whether you are a threat or safety. Not only is this about how you open your mouth or not, but it is also about how soft you speak and how calm your voice is.
To put it simple, shouting is not going to help you bond with your cat.
How To Bond With A Cat
With the previous important steps in mind, you will end up pretty well-trained to do the next job: actually bonding with a cat.
The bonding process is another one with a few steps to go through and it will definitely take some time before a bond is created. This time required depends on whether you got a domestic cat or a slight feral type of cat. If you had gotten yourself a pure feral cat, it can definitely take a lot of time getting used to each other. Felicia for example took us 2+ years before she became a cuddely lap cat. All other cats are more domestic then her and were way easier to communicate with.
The process of bonding goes through the following steps:
- Same Level With Them
- Eye Contact
- Food and Treats
- Let The Cat Come To You
- Know Where To Pet & Body Language
Same Level With Them
The very first step for creating a bond with a cat, is by going on the same level with them. You are most likely a rather large human in comparison to the small cat. So go and sit on the floor with them, then you are much closer to their level. In some cases (such as with training a feral cat) you might even have to go on eye level with them, meaning you probably need to lie down on the floor with your face at floor level.
Being small or smaller shows that you are not as much a threat as a big human (or big animal).
While being at the same level with the cat, you should also do some tricks in the eye contact department. People that stare at a cat, usually do not get the cat’s attention, while the person that is ignoring the cat (perhaps afraid or allergic) will get the cat on their lap.
Try to not stare at the cat you are trying to bond with. Staring is seen as a threat or at least a situation where possibility between threat and friend are very close to each other. Show calm eyes and when the cat looks at you, slowly blink your eyes (while counting 21-22 in your head for reference on the speed). This slow blink should be very slow, so you could count 21-22 while doing so. If you keep your eyes more closed then open during those two seconds, you are on the right track.
Food and Treats
Now that you have established eye contact and a normal understanding that you are not a threat to the cat, it is time for the next step. Offer some food or a cat treat. NB no cat treats to kittens, only to adults. If you don’t know the cat, you will have to go trial and error on which treats or cat food might work for them.
You cannot expect them to eat from your hand straight away, so toss some dry kibble in the cats direction (although wet food is usually the absolute winner here). If the cat shows any form of interest, we are well on our way.
The shy cats or feral cats under cats will not really come out when you give treats or food. They need a little more feeling about what you are plotting upon. If the cat has come out at the previous step, you can easily move on to Let the cat come to you and do the playing afterwards.
With a bit of playtime, you can bond a lot with a cat. We used this technique a lot with the feral cats we domesticated. Feral cats usually are underneath the sofa and feel threatened as soon as you come close to them. Patience is a big key there and giving food and treats and a bit of playtime has helped a lot, before they felt confident enough to come out and check us out.
You can start pretty simple with a toy on a stick with a wire. These can be pushed in their direction and pulled back towards you easily. Another great tip is to use a laser pointer. You are very much in control with these two toys and it is known that cats simply go wild on them. A shy cat might not be so wild on them, but will perhaps throw a paw at it and get in the playtime spirit. Give it lots of time. Repeat all these steps for several days and perhaps several times a day.
Let The Cat Come To You
Now that you did lure the cat out with some food, you will have to see if they are willing to come to you. If the cat is already out and coming to check you out, then you are well on your way. If the cat has not shown these signs yet, wait patiently. You can perhaps show that you want to cuddle them or play with them (see playtime). Another option is to use the kibble cat food to let them come closer and closer to you.
Patience is absolutely key in the entire process. You cannot force anything with cats, especially not feral cats.
Know Where To Pet & Body Language
You finally established a connection with the cat and now the cat is exploring the ways they can approve of you. They will usually circle around you with their body, bumping their body into yours. Sometimes the tip of the tail swirls around your leg. Other times they will smell your legs (pants) and push their fangs against them. A cat moving their body so close up to yours means that they are approving of you, but in the same time also putting their smells on you. They are actually marking property or territory on you. In the same time this means that they have approved of you. Now is your chance to pet the cat.
Cats are not like dogs, so understand the difference. You cannot really rough house with a cat and you should not (in most cases) stroke against the hair direction of the cat. The Safest way to pet your cat is from the top of the head towards the tail. No sides and no bellies! Often underneath their chin is fine and on the sides of their face. A lot of cats do not like to be touched on their tail, so try to avoid that a bit. Also avoid their whiskers, they are sensitive.
If your cat is a tad bit shy or has anxiety issues, it is a good idea to come to the cat from the back, behind the eyesight. We’ve seen feral cats run away in fear whenever someone tried to pet them with their hand coming at their face. Perhaps they fear that you will hit them. A surprising cuddle from above is more appreciated as long as it goes slow and easy.
Calm and easy is definitely key when it comes down to petting.
While you are petting the cat, watch their body language and try to understand what the cat is saying. Perhaps the cat will push the right body part into your fingers, asking for more cuddles “right there!”
A dog might swipe or waggle their tail when they are happy, the opposite is the case with cats. When a cat waggles or swipes their tail, they are usually upset and irritated. Change your petting behaviour or stop petting the cat if this is the case. A diving away head from your petting hand is also a sign the cat doesn’t want (more) cuddles.
It is also important to know that a cat has a threshold on how many cuddles they can receive. See it as a temperature or barometer where it starts with green and becomes yellow and then red in the end. Red marks the end of the cuddle session, the cat had enough and you better leave them in peace.
Give Your Cat A Place Within Your House
If this cat you are trying to bond with is more then just a cat, but actually YOUR cat, then you should consider implementing some dedicated places for your cat to relax at. As such you can think of cat beds to sleep, a cat tree to hang out in and toys that are only for your cat to play with. Treat your cat as a member of the family and you will see that bond grow quicker then ever.
A lot of cats are also very talkative, so you can very well talk back to them and communicate with them. The vocal talking might not straight away be a thing for every cat, but it usually grows with time when the bond with your cat grows stronger.
Have you got troubles with petting or bonding with a cat? Please write in the comments below. We would love to help you out and advise you on your situation!